A Desired Constellation
Ron was furiously putting on his coat and his tie as Harry quietly sat fully dressed in regal robes and a tuxedo underneath. Ron shot Harry a glare.
"I can't believe this, Harry, it's nearly the start of the ball and no Malfoy has been arrested."
Harry sighed, nearly too tired to make an effort to speak. But he did. His head was bowed down as his shoes sat on the edge of his four poster bed. "Ron, I honestly don't know what to do anymore. To search for something I have no idea of. The whole idea is just useless. Kingsley gives me ideas, McGonagall prods the Aurors to keep me safe instead of –"
"You?" Ron interrupted. "Look, it's not just about you. It's about Ginny and Mum and Hermione and, Luna and Dad, Fred and George- just about everyone who knows you well enough. So don't go about saying that this is just for you. This is for all of us. And if you could just stop feeling sorry for everyone and yourself, maybe you'll get something useful for all of us. Even if it's food or runes or He-who-must-not-be's-knickers-"
"Say that again?"
"The knickers? What the hell-"
"Before that," Harry said impatiently.
"Runes," Harry whispered, near incredulous.
"What about it?" Ron frowned.
Harry jumped off of the bed, walking back and forth; looking disconcerted-like his mind was racing through a zillion thoughts. "Why couldn't I have connected that earlier? It was right in front of me- Runes! He knows something. It's that ancient-"
"Harry! Woah! Explain. English, please."
"I saw Malfoy a couple of times with a small book of ancient runes. Something we're all not familiar with, I'm sure."
"Remember Madam Pince in the office?" Harry said rapidly. "She was trying to tell Professor McGonagall that she had lost some book from the restricted section. I wasn't paying attention to it since it seemed so insignificant that time. Now it almost makes sense. Malfoy's hiding something from us- maybe he was trying to tell me something all along-"
"To probably lead you into a trap!" Ron interrupted. "And another thing, you said small book, not large. The books in the restricted section are almost always large..."
Harry stopped. Ron was right. And if Malfoy did steal a book, he shouldn't have been walking around with it in the first place...unless he wanted Harry to see it? "Maybe...there's an exception to the large part..."
"Well, we need to see Madam Pince for that," Ron muttered.
"I need Hermione for this..."Harry murmured. "She's the only person I know who's that familiar with runes."
Ron sighed but before he could react, Neville came in, looking spiffy in his grey dress robes. He stared at the two of the, first, wondering if he came in a bad time.
" 'Sup, mate?" Ron asked.
Neville gave a broad grin, explaining that Ginny had asked for Harry to come to the Common Room where she was waiting for him. Harry smiled a bit, nearly forgetting the thoughts that had come barging in on him.
"Harry-" Ron began, seeing Harry stand.
"You heard what Shacklebolt said. They're moving their plans next week. Let's just be careful and enjoy the night, what do you think?"
"I never thought Ginny would have this effect on you-" Ron snickered.
"Oh shut it," Harry said, trying to hide a grin. "Neville, I need to ask a favour from you- if you could leave Susan's side for the tiniest minute."
Neville's face lit up. He had always been Harry's willing friend, especially since Harry had helped him improve on his magic skills, no matter how many bruises and bloody noses Harry had while teaching him to duel.
"Right," Neville began. "What do I need to do?"
Pansy looked agitated as she sat in the Common Room, glaring once in awhile at Nott who had a few girls surrounding him. She rolled her eyes and smoothed out her long dress made out of dark green velvet. She looked like a character from those periodic novels of the 1800s with her dark curls surrounding her pale face, accented by fiercely rouge lipstick. Nott took one look at her and excused himself to approach Pansy, much to the younger Slytherin girls' dismay.
He offered his hand out and Pansy took it. They walked out of the Common Room and into the corridor, lit by flames of orange and bits of green. For a moment, Pansy didn't speak. Then her mouth turned into an ugly line and she spoke.
"How does it feel to be wanted, Nott?" she said rudely.
"You heard what I said."
"I like it," Nott said simply. "It's...oddly welcoming."
"Good for you."
"Just because Draco isn't paying attention to you anymore, doesn't mean you should vent it out on me."
Pansy burst into tears for a few seconds as Nott stepped away from her. Women and crying! Merlin, it was that annoying and handy.
"He has another one. And still you won't tell me who she is!" she said hoarsely. She was now fretting over her makeup as well as her ego.
"When the time comes, he will," Nott said coolly.
"Have you ever wanted someone so bad Nott? That you could just die being apart from them? The thought of someone else with him just breaks me inside."
"I'm almost there," Nott said, his mouth suddenly feeling dry. "I almost know how it feels."
Pansy paid no attention to what he said as she was solely engrossed with her hurting self-esteem. "No one knows how it feels to love Draco Malfoy. No one."
Nott said nothing. Hermione knew what it was like. And it gave her so much pain already- but Draco had momentarily taken good care of that part. But still- for Hermione to love Draco, when Draco could have had any girl he wanted... he suddenly felt like telling Pansy about Hermione and Draco. He took a breath. Merlin, was falling in love this difficult?
"Come on," he said to her. "Let's move it."
They walked for the Great Hall in sombre moods, seeing other students milling about, waiting for the doors to open. It was a sea of both dazzling and revolting robes, tuxedos and dresses. Luna Lovegood was conversing with a fellow Ravenclaw, dressed in a bright orange gown decorated with assorted coloured faux jewellery that almost made Nott snort.
In the corner of her eye, Pansy saw Ginny Weasley enter arm in arm with Harry potter. She snorted, but could not help think of how wonderful the two of them looked together, Harry in black and white and Ginny in a blushing salmon pink gown. Her grip on Nott tightened.
"I don't see him anywhere," she said in between teeth.
Nott said nothing, waiting for Hermione to appear, parting crowds in some dramatic entrance. But she was nowhere to be seen. He saw Ron Weasley, having a conversation with Neville and other Gryffindor men, waiting for their dates. He felt Pansy's hand grip his wrist, trying to steer him away from the crowds converging in the entrance of the hall. He sighed and shrugged against Pansy and Pansy let him go.
"Where is everyone else? Blaise?" she asked him.
Nott rolled his eyes. "Probably dead for all I bloody care."
Pansy huffed. She had preferred Blaise's company. But seeing how close Nott and Draco were this semester, she decided to switch alliances too. She said nothing and sat on a gilded chair, looking like a bratty princess. Nott excused himself politely, determined to find Draco.
"You're leaving me?"
"What am I? Your lapdog?"
Pansy's upper lip curled in disgust. She rolled her eyes, stood up and walked for Blaise who was with other Slytherin seventh-years. Blaise had a sixth year lady (dressed in black lace) around his long arm. He was dressed rather spiffily in silver and emerald green.
Blaise nodded at Pansy's arrival. "Where's Draco?"
Pansy said nothing and Blaise laughed.
"Do you reckon he's out shagging someone in the greenhouse?" he told her in between laughs. The other Slytherins politely snickered. Next to Draco, Blaise was second in command to bullying and the like.
She tugged Blaise's sleeve, making the lady beside Blaise glare at Pansy. Pansy glared back, determined not to let the ugly little thing in lace ruin her suddenly hatched plan.
"What?" Blaise asked irritably as Pansy led him to a quieter end of the hallway, away from the Great Hall's crowds.
"What is going on with Draco?"
"How the bloody hell should I know and care? He's been avoiding me and you for months now," Blaise snapped.
"I need a favour-"
"Pansy Parkinson asking a favour? This is spectacular!" he said with relish. He had wanted to sleep with Pansy for quite some time now, after hearing Draco nonchalantly tell him once on how Pansy was like during their shagging sessions.
"I believe he's in love with someone else," Pansy said.
Blaise feigned a look of pain, pretending to stab himself in the heart. "And you've actually led yourself to believe this paranoia? Look, Draco is Draco, he never falls in love."
Pansy's eyes flashed hurt. "Find out who it is. Then you can have what you want."
"Is that why you've been hanging out with Nott more often? Offering him the same thing?" Blaise said scornfully. "Look Pansy, I like a good shag, but to delve into this kind of espionage just for your poor cold Slytherin heart makes me feel selfish about my kindness."
Pansy stomped away before he could say more. At least Nott was nearly kinder than Blaise was.
Blaise watched, curious about the unfolding of events. It had been a good thing that he had seen Draco and Hermione together once. He had lost track as he sped after them, trying to see where they were heading deep inside the Great forest, one cold winter afternoon. He had seen Nott also, across the expanse of the castle, Nott's darting brown eyes following their movements. He was not the only one who had known. He would use this information for his personal gain anyway. What was another Malfoy dead to him? All the better, he thought, to be rid of the Slytherin Prince of his generation. Draco was a fiasco anyway. Blaise's father had foreseen that he could be more useful to the Dark Lord than Draco. Except…Blaise was afraid. He shook himself off of the idea. A Zabini could never entertain thoughts like these.
He smiled, wondering if he could catch Draco off guard. Suppose he could ask daddy to give the Malfoy Manor a visit.
"Oh!" someone sighed adoringly as the Great Hall's door slowly opened to reveal painstaking work elegantly arranged out like a fairy tale world. Snow flurries danced across the hall but they didn't melt, the Great Hall's ceiling shone with a thousand bright stars and silver hearts and red gems hung about from invisible twine, some holding tiny candles for an additional dreamy effect. Some gasped and some clapped, some of the lads laughed, while others said nothing, but their eyes shone with the reflections the hall's decor gave.
As the crowd slowly filtered into the Great Hall, Draco stood on the landing from the dungeons. In that split second as he looked across, he saw a woman walking down the stairs. At first he had thought it was another apparition because of the delicacy of her movements. He took another look and he nearly struggled for breath.
Hermione stood on the third step before the landing, her eyes searching for Ginny or Harry probably. Time nearly stopped for Draco as he gazed at her longingly. He had never seen anything so stunning. She was wearing the dress he had given her, and Merlin- it did not disappoint him. Midnight blue looked dazzling against her soft skin; the shade had made her eyes look lighter. Her lips were startling rouge, adding to the whole disarming effect. She wore no jewellery on her and her wavy hair was curled up in a loose bun, a few wisps of hair framed her face unwittingly. The beads on the dress made her look like she was surrounded by millions of the tiniest lights and it took his breath away.
Hermione took another tentative step down, clearly shy about her whole appearance. Draco heard someone call her name.
Draco stopped in his tracks, his heart thudding at the thought of wanting to run to her…he saw Ginny dash for her, exclaiming her compliments and Harry Potter was fawning over her too. Soon, Hermione was surrounded by majority of the Gryffindor crowd, mostly the females asking her about her gown. Draco slipped into the Great Hall without a word. If he could live through this night- how he wanted to touch her, hold her- talk to her, even if it meant dying!
Hermione had not noticed him. But even the Slytherin house noticed Hermione as she went in. Blaise's eyes grew wide, seeing the bookworm all dolled up for the night. Pansy glared at Hermione, wondering where she could have gotten the dress. Daphne Greengrass craned her neck to see the Gryffindor know-it-all and she nearly lost balance upon seeing her walk in looking every inch like the most beautiful woman in existence. Quickly smoothing her expensive crimson coloured gown, she shoved a male Hufflepuff student out of the way just so she could see Hermione's full look.
"Morgana's curse," Daphne whispered, unable to believe that her mind was registering the Mudblood's appearance.
Pansy saw Draco slip into the background, without Nott. She decided to control herself, planning to approach Draco later. Chances were, the new girl he fancied would be attending this Valentines ball too. She would wait.
Draco found it difficult not to look at Hermione. Why wasn't the world friendly to him? He could have been beside her now had life been kinder in terms of love. He heard someone snicker about the look on Ronald Weasley's face upon seeing Hermione and he nearly smiled at the quip. Professor McGonagall stood on a platform, her voice magically resounding throughout the hall. The rest of the faculty were there too, all dressed up in fancy robes.
"Students, it is my pleasure to announce Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's fourth Valentines Ball in two hundred years."
The students hollered and cheered, hyped by the fact that the Weird Sisters were once again booked to play for a Hogwarts Ball. A round stage had been set in the centre of the hall for the Weird Sisters to perform in.
"Enjoy the rest of the night and be wary of your impulses," McGonagall added almost sternly. Some of the students laughed, knowing full well that some of the lads had snuck alcoholic drinks inside the hall, smartly disguised in pumpkin juice bottles and butterbeer bottles. As soon as McGonagall stepped down from the podium, soft music began to play, something that sounded close to a Victorian era ball.
Some lads began to ask for the ladies' hands to dance, some shuffled their feet unconsciously. Neville was trying to summon the courage to talk Susan Bones into dancing, something Susan was so shy about. Harry wasted no time in sweeping Ginny off for an awkward waltz as Harry had never been much of a brilliant dancer. She felt giddy despite Harry stepping onto her heels every now and then. She had been cautious enough to use steel toed shoes (upon hearing Parvati's complaints back in fourth year) and laughed every time Harry apologized.
Ron sat on a gilded chair covered in white satin, watching the rest of his friends enjoy their night with or without dates. He sighed and noticed Hermione talking animatedly to Terry about how successful the ball was even at the first hour. The Weird Sisters were due to play at eight in the evening after a formal dinner. Ron had been a huge admirer of the band but compared to the fact that he could not approach Hermione in all her glory made his fanaticism seem irrelevant.
Terry excused himself to dance with someone else from Ravenclaw and for a moment Hermione didn't know what to do. He saw Hermione slip onto a chair, patiently watching the dancing and the laughter and the rustling of gowns and swirling hems. Her vibrant eyes seemed to be searching for someone and he could only hope it was for his face. He began to walk for Hermione's direction when he saw someone else approach her. Ron stiffened in place.
Theodore Nott stood in front of Hermione, offering a gloved hand out to her.
Hermione looked up in shock, recognizing Nott after a few seconds.
"I'm sorry," he said in a low voice. "A dance for friendship?"
A/N: Do review. It gives me the fuel to write. =)